Palestine-Transjordan Mission

By Sven Hagen Jensen

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Sven Hagen Jensen, M.Div. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA) has worked for the church for over 50 years as a pastor, editor, departmental director, and church administrator in Denmark, Nigeria and the Middle East. Jensen enjoys reading, writing, nature and gardening. He is married to Ingelis and has two adult children and four grandchildren.

First Published: April 20, 2023

The Palestine-Transjordan Mission (PTM) of Seventh-day Adventists comprised the territory of the British protectorates of Palestine and Transjordan in the Middle East and had an estimated population of 1.2 million when it was organized in 1929.1 It had a brief history of about nineteen years until a reorganization took place with the formation of the State of Israel. In 1940 Arabia, with a population of 5 million, was added to its territory2 and in 1944 Cyprus.3 In 1948 the combined population of all the countries in its territory stood at 12.2 million.4 The mission opened its new office in 1929 at Bab Ez-Zahira, Herods’ Gate in Jerusalem. The following year it relocated to the Institute for Massage, Godfrey, 58 Musrara, still in Jerusalem. From 1947 until its closing, the office was housed in the new center, Advent House, Julian Way, Jerusalem.5

The PTM was organized as a mission under the Arabic Union Mission (AUM) in the Central European Division. In 1941 it came under the Middle East Union, a reorganization of the AUM, which was part of the General Conference Mission Division.6 For years the superintendent of the union was also the director of the mission. PTM was a small operation with a majority of its members in Transjordan. At the beginning there was just one organized church with 34 members.7 Toward the end of 1948 there were three churches and 75 members.8 The Seventh-day Adventist Church was legally recognized as an association, first in Palestine and later in Transjordan in 1938.9

The activities of the church in the brief history of the PTM primarily focused on literature sales and distribution, education, and health ministries. The early history, even before the mission was organized, is well described in the 1966 Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia,10 as well as in the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists article on Jordan.11 Palestine proved to be a suitable place for the publishing of SDA literature. C. H. Reickmann wrote: “We have tried printing in different places of the Arabic field, and finally found that Jerusalem is the most suitable place for publishing our Arabic literature. Thus, in late years all our books, tracts, Sabbath School Lesson Quarterlies, and leaflets have been printed in Jerusalem.”12

In Palestine, health ministries was one of the predominant methods of serving the local population and making contacts. In Jerusalem the Institute for Massage and Hydro Electric Therapy opened at 58 Musrara, in the same location as the mission office. Bror and Else Farnstrom served as nurses. At Jaffa Road in Haifa, a similar institute was opened with nurses Alfred and Lina Piorr.13 In 1938 the Institute in Haifa, along with its nurses, was relocated to Amman in Transjordan.14

The Advent House was opened in Jerusalem in 1947 as a center for the growing work in Palestine. On the lower floor were treatment rooms and a chapel. Upstairs were offices and apartments. The tension and conflict between Jews and Arabs made it increasingly difficult to maximize the use of the new facilities. The location, which was inside what was considered a “barbed-wire zone,” required everyone living outside the premises to have a military pass in order to come to church on Sabbath mornings. These military restrictions greatly hampered all church activities, and treatment rooms were forced to close.

However, missionary activity continued to progress through various avenues including the literature ministry.15 A branch Sabbath School was also opened in the Arabic village of Ramallah in Palestine. A public effort that was being held was well attended until trouble began, and it was no longer safe to move around. Instead of expanding the work, the director L. J. Norris was forced to quickly evacuate with his family. As they were preparing to leave, they had to be brought out in an armored vehicle and narrowly avoided being hit by enemy fire on their way to freedom. They were taken to the Lebanese border and from there to Beirut and then on to Cyprus.16

Work in Amman and Transjordan also made progress during the tenure of the PTM. Several were baptized in connection with Chafic Farag’s effort in 1946. Three Adventist schools opened. Two were elementary schools in Es Salt and El Husn,17 and the third was Amman Adventist Secondary School, which was begun by Naim Awais in 1942.18 The first two had only a short lifespan, but the school in Amman has had a lasting impact on the Adventist work in Jordan and continues to operate today (2023).

With the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, the end had come for Palestine-Transjordan Mission. Soon after, the Jordania Mission Field 19 was organized with Transjordan, Cyprus, and Arabia as its territory, and the Palestine Mission was temporarily administered by the General Conference. The following year it was renamed the Israel Mission.20 21

Directors: Nils Zerne (1929-1930); Walter K. Ising (1930-1935); Dr. O. Schuberth (1936 to 1937); George Keough (1937-1941); E. L. Branson (1942 to 1943); H. G. Rutherford (1944 to 1945); J. S. Russell (1946); L. J. Norris (1947 to 1948).22

Sources

“Elder Norris Leaves for Cyprus.” Middle East Messenger, March 1, 1948.

Nichols, F. D. “Palestine – Land of Contrasts and Conflicts.” ARH, October 9, 1947.

Norris, L. J. “Evacuation From Palestine.” ARH, March 25, 1948.

Rieckmann, C. H. “Rays of Light From Old Jerusalem.” ARH, May 9, 1935.

Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. 2nd rev. ed., vol. 10. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1996.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1929-1951. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Wixwat, Melanie Riches, and Jensen, Sven Hagen. “Jordan.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Accessed March 20, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EDZ6.

Notes

  1. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, “Palestine-Tranjordian Mission,” 1930.

  2. Ibid., 1941, 100.

  3. Ibid., 1945, 210.

  4. Ibid., 1950, 235.

  5. Ibid., 1930, 135; 1931, 138; 1948, 217.

  6. Ibid., 1930, 135; 1944, 210.

  7. Ibid., 1931, 138.

  8. Ibid., 1949, 233.

  9. Ibid., 1940, 97.

  10. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (SDAE) (1996), s.v. “Jordan.”

  11. Melanie Riches Wixwat and Sven Hagen Jensen, “Jordan,” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA), accessed March 20, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EDZ6.

  12. C. H. Rieckmann, “Rays of Light From Old Jerusalem,” ARH, May 9, 1935, 11.

  13. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1935, 78.

  14. Ibid., 1939, 470.

  15. F. D. Nichols, “Palestine - Land of Contrasts and Conflicts,” ARH, October 9, 1947, 4.

  16. L. J. Norris, “Evacuation From Palestine,” ARH, March 25, 1948; “Elder Norris Leaves for Cyprus,” Middle East Messenger, March 1, 1948, 28.

  17. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1935, 78.

  18. SDAE (1996), s.v. “Amman Adventist Secondary School.”

  19. Consisting of two churches and fifty members, with the Union President, R. H. Hartwell, as its president. “Jordania Mission Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1950; “Jordania Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1951.

  20. Consisting of one church and nineteen members, with Bror Farnstrom as the missionary in charge. “Palestine Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1950; “Israel Mission (Formerly Palestine Mission),” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook 1951.

  21. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks, 1950, 235; 1951, 150.

  22. “Jordan,” ESDA. ,

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Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Palestine-Transjordan Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 20, 2023. Accessed May 29, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8DZR.

Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Palestine-Transjordan Mission." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 20, 2023. Date of access May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8DZR.

Jensen, Sven Hagen (2023, April 20). Palestine-Transjordan Mission. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 29, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8DZR.